It’s a Trap: JCU Innovation for the Fight Against Cane Toads

The spread of cane toads is increasing rapidly over the western front- researchers at Townsville JCU are pioneering research to eradicate the threat of cane toads to native predators.

By Jemma Boisen and Jayde Baguley

Lin Schwarzkopf, a professor at JCU, is leading research in designing traps to eradicate the toads. With the help of PhD students, Kiyomi Yasumiba and Ben Muller, traps have been designed to attract and trap female cane toads.

PESTS: Cane toads are an invasive species negatively impacting on native predators in Australia. CREDIT: www.environment.nsw.gov.au

Originally the traps initial design was only effective in catching male toads and according to Lin, this was ineffective in controlling the population.

“When you want to control an invertebrate species you need to attract females, but we were only catching males,” Lin said.

This is where Kiyomi’s research is particularly important; she studied the calls of cane toads and determined which calls were most attractive to female toads.

“A low pulse rate and low frequency calls indicates a larger male toad which are most attractive to female toads,” Kiyomi said.

Kiyomi’s research has also discovered that throughout Australia the cane toad population reacts and responds to different calls- almost like different languages.

“I travelled around Australia to collect calls and found that toads have different dialects. If the trap with the Townsville call was put in Western Australia, it would not work effectively,” Kiyomi said.

Kiyomi said that toads have different calls due to the local environments. Researchers are working on creating different traps to accommodate the toad dialect.

Ben Muller’s research contains the building and design of the JCU cane toad trap. He gathered information from Kiyomi and used it to design an effective cane toad trap that traps females.

TOAD TRAP: The trap will be ready for circulation late this year. CREDIT: animalcontrol.com.au

Ben and other fellow researchers used the trap on Orpheus Island and set traps at 60 decibels and 80 decibels while the frequency rate and pulse rate was the same, they discovered that the louder traps work better. With the louder traps, the low frequency rate and high pulse rate, they are able to attract more females.

“The next step is designing multiple traps with different cane toad calls,

“The traps will be used mainly on Islands with a low cane toad population to help reduce the population or the traps will be placed on Island with no cane toads to help keep them out.” Ben said.

JCU is developing a prototype with a Melbourne firm Animal Control Technologies Australia.

It is estimated that the traps will be ready for mass production is late this year.

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